Brian Wolfe, OSSA President & Malheur County Sheriff
July, 2016 — Over the last few years, we have observed that community trust in law enforcement is strained. This strain has come about for many reasons; some are just and many are unjust. Often social media, YouTube, television, etc., delivers a false sense of what the actual law enforcement functions are.
The real question is, how do we correct the community mistrust of law enforcement? We have observed positive results where law enforcement has exercised community policing programs within their agencies. The question is, do we truly need community policing programs or is there a way for us to train deputies, troopers, and officers to interact and talk with community members in a way that mistrust can be dispelled and respect is gained by both sides?
What we need is a twofold approach which will produce positive results and healthy communities. First, law enforcement has to do a better job of communicating with the public in an attempt to explain the reasoning behind the action taken. The second is best accomplished by citizens who are willing to be fully informed about their local law enforcement agencies’ policies and practices, and who know their local public safety personnel. This can be done by citizens volunteering with local law enforcement agencies through programs such as citizen patrol, local citizen advisory boards, citizen academies, etc.
Law enforcement must understand that most people only have contact with them when they call for service or when they are subject to a traffic stop.
The main focus or goal of law enforcement is community safety. I can assure you that the thirty-six sheriffs in Oregon recognize that the foundation of effective law enforcement is a community that has full trust in the men and women who are charged with serving their communities. Each Oregon sheriff is continually looking for ways to improve their policies and procedures to build trust between the respective sheriff’s offices and the counties they serve.
I encourage citizens who may be experiencing mistrust with your sheriff’s office to meet with your sheriff to discuss your concerns.